Inuit Testimony About Franklin

I. Testimony Relating to the Washington Bay encounter.

Tetqataq and Ukuararssuk, testimony given to Charles Francis Hall, 1869

Tetqataq and Ukuararssuk tell that they were with Mangaq on the west shore of Ki-ki-tuk (King William Island) with their families sealing, and this a long time ago. They were getting ready to move -- it was in the morning & the sun was high -- when Tetqataq saw something in the distance on the smooth ice, something that looked white; he thought it was a bear. As soon as Tetqataq saw this something white, he told his companions of it, and they all waited, hoping it was a bear. As they watched, the white object grew larger, for it was moving towards them. At length they began to see many black objects along with what they had first espied as white in the distance. The object that they had 1st seen as white proved to be a sail raised on a boat & as they got nearer they saw this sail shake in the wind. As the object grew plainer, they thought of white men and began to be afraid. As the company of men (strangers) & the boat they were pulling got quite near, 2 men came ahead of the others and came across the ice towards where the Innuits were standing looking out, which was on the land, and the 2 men (Kabloonas) came walking up to where they were. Tetqataq and Ukuararssuk started to meet them, walking there on the ice. When they came to a crack in the ice, they stopped for the two white men to come up. The 2 white men came closer; one had a gun which he carried in his arms. This one stopped behind -- a little back -- white the other man came up as close to the 2 Innuits as the crack in the ice would allow him.

The 1st man showed that he had an oo-loo (knife) when he stopped down beside the ice crack and made a peculiar kind of circling motion with the oo-loo. Right after that, he put his hand up to his mouth and lowered it all the way down his neck and breast, as if to say he wanted to get something to eat. Then the two white men moved over to the side, till they found a place where they could cross over to the 2 Innuits. Them the 1st man, who was Aglooka, spoke to them, saying "Man-nik-too- me," at the same time stroking 1st one and then the other down the breast, and also shook hands with each, repeating "Man-nik-too-me" several times.

Aglooka pointed with his hand to the southward & eastward & at the same time repeated the word I-wil-ik. The Innuits could not understand whether he wanted them to show him the way there or simply to tell them that he was going there. He then made a motion northward & spoke the word "oo-me-en," making them to understand there were 2 ships in that direction. As Aglooka pointed to the N., drawing his hand & arm from that direction, he slowly moved his body in a falling direction and all at once dropped his head sideways into his hand, at the same time making a kind of combination of whirring, buzzing, & wind blowing noise. This was taken as a pantomimic representation of ships being crushed in the ice.

Iggiararjuk, as told to Rasmussen, 1923

An old man named Iggiararjuk told Rasmussen: "My father Mangaq was with Tetqatsaq and Qablut on a seal hunt on the west side of King William's Land when they heard shouts, and discovered three white men who stood on shore waving to them. This was in spring, there was already open water, and it was not possible to get in to them before low tide. The white men were very thin, hollow-cheeked, and looked ill. They were dressed in white man's clothes, had no dogs, and were traveling with sledges which they drew themselves. They bought seal meat and blubber, and paid with a knife. There was great joy on both sides at this bargain, and the white men cooked the meat at once with the aid of the blubber, and ate it. Later on, the strangers went along to my father's tent and stayed there the night before returning to their own little tent, which was not of animal skins but of something that was white like snow. At the time there were already caribou on King William's Land, but the strangers only seemed to hunt wildfowl; there were many eider ducks and ptarmigan then. The earth was not yet alive and the swans had not come to the country. Father and his people would willingly have helped the white men, but could not understand them; they tried to explain themselves by signs. They had once been many; now they were only few, and they had left their ship out in the pack-ice. They pointed to the south, and it was understood that they wanted to go home overland. They were not met with again, and no one knows where they went to." For the purpose of giving his narrative an additional tinge of reliability, Iggiararjuk mentioned the names of all the people at the tent camp who met the Kabloonas. There were Mangaq (the tease) and his wife Qerneq (black), Tetqataq (flying before the wind) and his wife Ukaliaq (the leveret), Qablut (scoop) and his wife Iliuana (point), Ukuararssuk (snow-block) and his wife Putulik (hole), Panatoq (long knife) and his wife Equvautsoq (crooked).

Iliuana, as told to Schwatka's Expedition, 1879

Some of the white men were very thin, and their mouths were dry and hard and black. They had no fur clothing on. One of them was called "Agloocar" and another "Too-looah," another one was called "Doktook." The first time Ag-loo-ka came he did not come inside; next morning he entered one of the tents of the four families camping there on the west shore. Ag-loo-ka and his men had come along, the men dragging a large sledge laden with a boat and a smaller sledge with provisions. Close by the Inuits they erected a tent; some of the men slept in the boat. The time was late, the sea-ice was nearly ready to break up. Tetqataq saw Ag-loo-ka kill two geese, and his men were busy shooting. Ag-loo-ka tried very hard to talk to the Inuits, but did not say much to them. He had a little book as he sat in Ukuararssuk's tent and wrote notes. He ate a piece of seal raw, as big as the fore and next fingers to the first joint. He then said he was going to Iwillik. The next spring, I saw a tent on the shore. There were dead bodies in the tent, and outside were some covered over with sand. There were also knives, forks, spoons, watches, blankets, and many books.

II. Testimony Relating to "Starvation Cove"

Eveeshuk, testimony given to Charles Francis Hall, 1869

Q. Did you ever go to the place where the boat with many dead Kabloonas was found by the Innuits? Ans. Yes, I have been there. Q. Where is the place? Ans. I now show her Rae's chart; she puts her finger on the w. side of the Inlet west of Pt. Richardson & says that was the place where the boat was found. Q. Did you see any bones of the white men there? Ans. She did -- the land low & muddy there -- the sea-water close to. Saw pieces of the boat after the Innuits had broken it up. Q. Can bones -- skeleton bones -- be seen there now when snow and ice are gone? Ans. She thinks not, for it is so muddy there & the mud so soft that they have all sunk down into it. She continues -- One man's body when found by the Innuits had the flesh all on & not mutilated except the hands sawed off at the wrists -- the rest a great many had their flesh cut off as if some one or other had cut it off to eat.

Tooktoocheer, testimony given to Lieutenant Schwatka, 1879

The boat was right side up. Outside the boat he saw a number of skulls. He also saw bones from legs and arms that appeared to have been sawed off. Inside the boat was a box filled with bones, and another box filled with books and papers. There was also canvas and four sticks, and a number of watches, open-faced; a few were gold, but most were silver. They are all lost now. They were given to the children to play with and have been broken up and lost. His reason for thinking that they had been eating each other was because the bones were cut with a knife or saw. They found one big saw and one small one in the boat; also a large red tin case of smoking tobacco and some pipes. The bones are now covered up with sand and sea-weed, as they were lying just at the high- water mark.

III. Inuit testomony relating to Franklin's Last Ship

The morning of May 14, 1879, began a day which was introduced by an unusual situation and ended by becomong one of the most fateful days in our journey. We were continuing our way along the river [Hayes River, named by Schwatka in honor of the President] . . . at two o'clock that afternoon our moment of fate commenced its development. It began with the discovery of a recently upturned block of snow, and soon we came upon an igloo -- deserted -- but close by were two caches of musk-ox and furs. A trail, formed by dragging a musk-ox skin loaded with the belongings of these unknown people, led us on. Our natives pronounced this trail as being two days old, and believed that on the morrow we would come upon the trail-makers

Bright and early on the morning of May 15 we broke camp, being well on our way for some time whem, rounding a sharp bend in Hayes River, we came suddenly in sight of three igloos, about a mile distant.

A we approached, a number of the occupants who were standing around fled to their igloos and persistently remained there. According to the custom of their country (as Joe explained it) we armed ourselves, leaving the women and children with the sleds, and marched in a line to within about a hundred yards of the igloo.

Ikqueesik now went forward and commenced shouting at the top of his voice. His words must have reassured them as they had the desired effect of bringing the affrighted occupants out into sight. They formed a line with bows, arrows, and spears or kinves, and, as we moved up to within a few feet, they began a general stroking of their breasts, calling "Munnik-toomee" (Welcome).

They proved to be a band of Ooquesik-Salik Esquimaux, numbering seven or eight men and probably twice as many women and children. The head man, Ikinnelik-Puhtoorak, an Ookjoolik, was the leader of a once powerful band inhabiting the northern and western shores of the Adelaide peninsula and adjacent shores of King William land. Famine and inroads of neighboring bands had reduced the tribe to a handful. Their land was now the possession of the Netchilluks and Kidnelik Esquimaux. Of the latter thay had great fear and had mistaken us for this band when we first appeared.

We were the first white men these natives had ever seen -- with the exception of the two oldest men of the tribe ... they told us that the river on which we were now travelling would take us two days' journey to the northward then, bending directly backwards upon its course, would take us two days' farther southeast before we would reach Back's River ....

Colonel Gilder and I [interviewed] old Ikinnilik-Puhtoorak, the head man of this tribe, with Joe Ebierbing as our interpreter. The old man, then about sixty years old, had an intelligent, open face, and all his answers were given without hesitation, in a straightforward manner which carried the conviction of truth. In response to our questions he stated that he had seen white men before in this country. Almost impatiently we waited Joe's interpretation of the old man's statements. His next remarks electrified us.

"A long time ago, said Puhtoorak, "when I was a small boy living with my people just below the bad rapids near the mouth of the Great Fish River, we saw a wooden boat with white men going down the river. The white men shook hands with the Innuits and the latter rubbed their hands down their breasts, a sign of welcome."

There were ten men in the boat, and the commander's name as near as he could remember it was Tooahdeahhrak (probably Lieut. Back on his first exploration of the river).

Continuing his story, Puhtoorak told Ebierbing that the next time he saw a white man it was a dead one in a large ship about eight miles off Grant Point. The body was in a bunk inside the ship in the back part. The ship had four big sticks, one pointing out and the other three stabding up. On the mainland, near Smith Point and Grant Point on the Adelaide peninsula, an Esquimaux party which he accompanied saw the tracks of white men and judged they were hunting for deer. At this time the tracks indicated there were four white men but afterwards the tracks showed only three. He saw the ship in the spring before the spring snow falls and the tracks in the fresh spring snow when the young reindeer come of the same year. He never saw the white men. He thinks that the white men lived in this ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland.

Puhtoorak told how the Esquimaux, not understanding how to get into the ship, cut through one side. When summer came and the ice melted the ship righted herself but the hole in her side being below the water line she sank as the water poured in. After the ship sank, they found a small boat on the mainland. When he went on board the ship he saw a pile of dirt on one side of the cabin door showing that some white man had recently swept out the cabin. He found on board the ship four red tin cans filled with meat and many that had been opened. The meat was full of fat. The natives went all through the ship and found also many empty casks. The found iron chains and anchors on deck, and spoons, knives, forks, tin plates, china plates, etc.

When the ship finally sank her masts stuck out of the water and many things floated on shore which the natives picked up. He also saw books on board the ship but the natives did not take them. He afterwards saw some that had washed ashore. He never saw any stone monument or cairn on the mainland near where the ship sank. There was one small boat hanging from the davits which the natives cut down. Some of the ship's sails were set.

--Testimony given to Schwatka

A native of the island first saw the ship when sealing; it was far off seaward, beset in the ice. He concluded to make his way to it, though at first he felt afraid. He got aboard, but saw no-one, although from every appearance somebody had been living there. At last he ventured to take a knife, and returned to his home. On showing the Inuits what he had found, the men of the place all started off to the ship. The party on getting aboard tried to find out if anyone was there, and not seeing or hearing anyone, began ransacking the ship. To get into the igloo (cabin), they knocked a hole through because it was locked. They found there a dead man, whose body was very large and heavy, his teeth very long. It took five men to lift this giant Kabloona. He was left where they found him. Everything about the ship -- the sails, rigging, and boats -- was in complete order.

From time to time they returned to get out of the ship whatever they could; they made their plunder into piles on board, intending to sledge it to their igloos sometime after; but on going again they found it sunk, except for the top of the mast. They said they made a hole in her bottom by getting out one of its timbers or planks. The ship was afterwards much broken up by the ice and then masts, timbers, boxes, casks, etc. drifted on shore. A little while later after this fresh tracks were seen of four men and a dog on the land where the ship had been.

-- Testimony given to Hall, 1869

The Inuit had been at one time on board the ships of Too-loo-ark the Esh- e-mut-ta. He was an old man with broad shoulders, thick and heavy-set, with grey hair, full face, and bald head. After the first summer and first winter, they saw no more of Too-loo-ark, and Ag-loo-ka was the new Esh-e-mut-ta.

The ship on board of which they had often seen Too-loo-ark was overwhelmed with heavy ice in the spring of the year. The men all worked for their lives in getting out provisions, but before they could save much the ice turned the vessel down on its side, crushing the masts and breaking a hole in her bottom, She sank at once, and has never been seen again. The other ship, spoken of as seen near Ook-goo-lik, was in complete order. For a long time the Inuits feared to go on board. On the report of one of them that he had seen one man on the vessel that was alive, many of the Inuit visited it, but saw nothing of the man.

-- Testimony given to Hall, 1866